What To Do When Your Life Is Impacted By PTSD
By Landon Funk
Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault
I spend a lot of time thinking about all the things I could have done differently. I could have gotten up and left. I could have called a cab company. I could have done this. I could have done that. But the fact of the matter is, I didn’t do any of those things.
The decisions that I made on the night of my first rape and my second and every other sexual assault I have experienced after that (from blackout blowjobs in bars to Aziz Ansari type dates-gone-wrong) replay over and over again in my head, like people who just wont leave you alone. These were things that I did, and no matter how much therapy I do, I still can’t shake that I could have altered the course of my life and mental health if I had made one decision differently on those days. I know that my assaults are not my fault, but I can’t help but think about what I could have done to stop it – even if it means cooking my own food instead of eating at Panera or taking Santa Monica Boulevard instead of Wilshire.
I can’t change my past no matter how badly I want to reverse some of the decisions I made – just to see if the outcome would be different. And I don’t think I am alone in doing this either. I am sure this is something that all survivors do over and over and over again in the hopes of finding clarity or curing their mental health issues. I know I am not alone, but sometimes my brain wants me to feel that way.
I have always talked openly about my diagnosed PTSD, a very real disease that can be triggered by the slightest action. Within seconds of being triggered, I am transported back to the instance where someone exerted power and control over me and my body, letting me know that all I am is a woman to be used by – in all of my assaults – a man. To be quite honest with you, my PTSD most frequently erupts when I am having sex.
Well, that isn’t totally fair. My PTSD appears during sex but stems from a conversation I could have had during the day or a run-in with one of my abusers. We don’t like to talk about how our mental health plays into our sex lives, but it does. It does big time.
I will write later this month about my vaginismus which is a key player when my PTSD flares up. If my partner has already penetrated me when the flashback occurs, then it is not my vagina that lets them know that I cannot participate in sex consensually. It is my face. Apparently, I “go dead” and immediately stop being an active participant in intercourse. I lay there with my eyes glazed over, the same way I laid there time and time again.
It is our bodies’ natural response to trauma to freeze. In fact, we have three automatic responses to trauma that could be triggered at any point in time: fight, flight, or freeze. I always freeze. You might always fight. Everyone experiences trauma differently.
Luckily, I have an amazing partner who notices when this happens and immediately reacts, making sure that I have everything I need in order to feel safe. I didn’t always have him though, and I feel like I hit the jackpot because he shows basic human decency when I am reliving my trauma. All my other partners have not shown me the same courtesy when I am triggered.
Survivors/Victims/Overcomers are mentally transported to those terrible moments and forced to relive them. Talk to your partner or your friends or anyone you trust and helps you feel not alone. And if you are someone who a survivor feels comfortable with expressing their daily mental health struggles, listen to them. Make them feel loved. We are all in this together.